Crossing the Water and Keeping the Faith

Haitian Religion in Miami

280 pages

11 halftones, 3 maps

August, 2013

ISBN: 9780814777091



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Terry Rey was formerly Professeur de Sociologie des Religions at Université d’État d’Haïti and Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Florida International University. He is now Associate Professor of Religion at Temple University. 

All books by Terry Rey

Alex Stepick is Professor of Sociology at Portland State University and Professor of Global and Sociocultural Studies at Florida International University, where he also is Director of the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy.

All books by Alex Stepick

All books by Archbishop Thomas Wenski

Beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s, significant numbers of Haitian immigrants began to arrive and settle in Miami. Overcoming some of the most foreboding obstacles ever to face immigrants in America, they, their children, and now their grandchildren, as well as more recently arriving immigrants from Haiti, have diversified socioeconomically. Together, they have made South Florida home to the largest population of native-born Haitians and diasporic Haitians outside of the Caribbean and one of the most significant Caribbean immigrant communities in the world. Religion has played a central role in making all of this happen.
Crossing the Water and Keeping the Faith is a historical and ethnographic study of Haitian religion in immigrant communities, based on fieldwork in both Miami and Haiti, as well as extensive archival research. Where many studies of Haitian religion limit themselves to one faith, Rey and Stepick explore Catholicism, Protestantism, and Vodou in conversation with one another, suggesting that despite the differences between these practices, the three faiths ultimately create a sense of unity, fulfillment, and self-worth in Haitian communities. This meticulously researched and vibrantly written book contributes to the growing body of literature on religion among new immigrants, as well as providing a rich exploration of Haitian faith communities.


  • Crossing the Water and Keeping the Faith successfully locates Catholic, Protestant, and Vodouist religious identities in Haitian Miami and illustrates the diversity of religious places in the diaspora.  Rey and Stepick’s extensive fieldwork yields vivid anecdotes of faithful persons, sensitive considerations of immigrant struggle and resilience and, to date, the most comprehensive theory of Haitian American religious lives."

    Southern Spaces

  • "Crossing the Water and Keeping the Faith is a compelling sociological analysis of Haitian religion in Florida and offers important interventions into the sociology of religion and migration studies more broadly."

    European Association of Social Anthropologists

  • “Conjoining historical method with rich ethnographical material, Rey and Stepick offer a holistic view of Haitian religion in Miami…. Crossing the Water and Keeping the Faith’s treatment of Haitian religion will be of value to scholars and students interested in Diaspora religions and sociology/anthropology of religion.”

    Religion Studies Review

  • "Crossing the Water and Keeping the Faith’streatment of Haitian religion will be of value to scholars and students interested in Diaspora religions and sociology/anthropology of religion.”

    Religious Studies Review

  • Crossing the Water demonstrates many strengths and is a valuable contribution to a nuanced and sensitive understanding of the Haitian religion experience on both sides of the water. Its rich ethnographic, historical, and demographic information, along with an apt engagement with and critique of the rational choice and microeconomic theories of religion result in a book that is at once useful to a wide swath of scholars as well as quite and enjoyable read.”

    Review of Religious Research

  • “…[A]n informative book that should be read by everyone interested in Haitian immigrant religion. Rey and Stepick have successfully managed to describe and untangle the intricacies of the religious practices of a major immigrant group in the United States. Moreover, they have skillfully removed the superstitious and evil dimension that is often attached to Haitian religions…”

    Sociology of Religion

  • "Promotes the acceptance of ‘Haitian-ness,’ and perpetuates the Haitian cultural renaissance that Rey and Stepick celebrate through their study.”

    Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

  • “This outstanding book is the first comprehensive overview of the rise and existing triangular relations between the Roman Catholic, Protestant and Vodou communities among Haitians in Miami, Florida. The authors let their subjects speak and reveal the importance these religious traditions play in Haitians’ transnational experiences. This volume should be of interest to a general readership and is especially of vital importance to anthropologists, sociologists, theologians and historians of American religion.”

    —Leslie Desmangles, Trinity College

  • “A monumental scholarly achievement by two excellent scholars of the three main religions in Haiti and its diaspora: Catholicism, Protestantism, and Vodou. Because of its breadth—covering all three religions of Haiti—and the length of time it covers—decades—no one will be able to teach or write about Haitian and/or Caribbean religion without citing this work.”

    —Margarita A. Mooney, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • "The authors are not anthropologists but rather professors of religion and of sociology, respectively, and their text does not quite read like anthropology, but I think we can concur that their portraits of three different yet linked Haitian religions, in Haiti and translocally, unified by a religious collusio are valuable to anthropology and suggest paths of research and analysis for the future."

    —Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database